5 guys share their skincare secrets

Written by Helen Anna / Illustration by Ethan Barry Murley

The men’s skincare industry is worth over $120 million and it’s getting larger every year. With new products constantly entering the marketplace, we were curious which ones are doing the trick for the guys we know.

To help figure that out, we’ve recruited five men with beautiful skin to tell us how they get their glow on.

Thom, 30, Musician

Skin type: Balanced

Conventional wisdom dictates that the best skin belongs to those who sleep 8 hours a night, drink plenty of water and maintain a low-stress lifestyle, but as I am terminally anxious, addicted to caffeine and rarely get more than 6 hours of shuteye, this is not realistic for me. 

My attention to skincare is recent. I’m 30, and spent the first 29 years of my life coasting by on my mothers genetics. As my 3rd decade loomed, the cracks began to show.

It turns out 29 summers of saying ‘oh, I just burn until it turns into a tan’ and occasionally rubbing a bar of soap across my face doesn’t cut it anymore. 

I should mention I am famously cheap, skeptical of anything resembling pseudoscience, and lazy, so my early efforts to take care of my skin were based on reddit and impulses. I made my own scrub out of walnut shells and coffee grounds, which I rubbed enthusiastically on my face in the shower until someone pointed out that I was doing more harm than good. I tested products out whenever I slept over at someone’s house, and compiled a list of things that I wanted to purchase. I’ll share what I do now, but ask my Gemini ass in six months and I’ll probably have a different answer.

In the morning I use Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser which I bought mainly because Pusha-T recommended it in a video and I do anything Pusha-T says. It’s around $15 and it feels nice –  it has salicylic acid, which is great for breakouts. When it runs out, I top it up with water and keep the bottle going for a bit. (Told you I was cheap).

Next I’ll put on The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid followed by The Ordinary “Buffet” Serum. I’ve also started using a couple drops of The Ordinary Caffeine Solution under my eyes to try to deal with the bags that emerge when I stay up all night in the studio.

That said, my favourite eye bag treatment is to cover my eyes with a freshly cut slice of potato. It works! It’s great! Shut up! 

After my serums sink in, I’ll top things off with Aveeno Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15, and if it’s sunny out I’ll mix some SPF50 in my palm and cover my face, neck, ears, etc. I also use the pink Vaseline Lip Therapy liberally because we love a glossy, kissable lip, and the rosy colour is v. chic. 

In the evenings I use the same Aveeno face wash. If I’ve been wearing makeup that day I’ll chase it up with The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser. Then I’ll put on the 0.5% concentration of The Ordinary Retinol in Squalane, being sure to rub it in well. It says not to use this in the daytime because it can make your skin more sun-sensitive. I finish with a dab of caffeine solution and some moisturizer, because once again I’ve probably stayed up til 3am with a 7am wakeup time. 

That’s it! Other than watching how much I drink and quitting smoking, I think I’m doing the best I can do outside of stem cell injections.

Rob, 36, Creative Director

Skin type: Oily

As a teen, my greasy skin was difficult to manage. Products seemed to add a layer of uncomfortable oiliness, and using sunscreen was a trade-off between a sunburn or an acne flare-up.

Unfortunately I don’t have any skincare tips for the hormonal, teenaged me. My skin had champagne taste, and I was a poor bastard with lemonade pockets.

The only thing I can offer is some juvenile wisdom given to me by a high school friend who told me “God made us this way so we wouldn’t be sluts!”

Neither of us were religious, but it was something to ponder.

It wasn’t til my mid-twenties that my oily complexion started to improve, and today I can be thankful for my oily skin because it seems to have given me an anti-aging advantage. A career in the creative industry means I regularly meet new people, which inevitably leads to the awkward game of guess-my-age. I’m suspicious of guesses that are off by 15 years, but I’ve learned to graciously take them as compliments.

Now in my mid thirties and inching closer to an existential crisis, simple acts of self-care have entered my daily routine. I use Bioré Baking Soda Pore Cleanser to wash my face (it had me at ‘baking soda’. What can’t baking soda do?) followed by a tea tree oil cleanser. Tea Tree Oil is known to have antifungal properties, which is thought to be effective at removing acne-causing bacteria. Finally I moisturize with Nivea Visage Q10 Plus Day Cream – it keeps my skin hydrated without feeling greasy and it contains SPF.

As I’m also the lucky recipient of a birthmark on my face, I sometimes paint on some Dermablend Pro Cover Creme on days I need a little self-assurance.

It’s not a daily habit, but I started looking for something to counter some mild anxiety around the social obligations that come with my job a few years ago. No one told me that Creative Directors do a fair amount of public speaking – I would have appreciated a warning at least. Anyway, if you must know, my shade is a 50/50 blend of Caramel Beige and Golden Bronze. Et Voilà. On est bel et bon.

Ryan, 33, Dentist

Skin type: Combination

Being perfectly candid, I took terrible care of my skin throughout my teens and early twenties. I recall an inconsistent night time routine of washing off the day’s layer of Mac Studio Fix with liquid hand soap and never using moisturizer. At the time, sunscreen was not part of my vocabulary.

Thankfully, all that ended when a dear friend brought me out of barbarism and into the gleaming era of self care. The products I use have evolved over the years, but I’ve nailed down a pretty consistent routine that seems to be working for me.

I start my morning skincare routine by cleansing with Perfect Whip by Senka. I found this gentle cleanser in Japan a few years ago and always make sure to buy several tubes of it whenever I’m there. It’s a cleansing foam that does not dry out my skin, removing impurities and getting me ready for the day. Next I use two Deciem brand antioxidants: Ethylated L-Ascorbic Acid 30% Network by NIOD and Resveratrol Serum 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% from The Ordinary.

My moisture layer is Jouviance’s Restructiv Glyco Lotion 10. It’s a gentle exfoliating lotion containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA). Of all the products I’m listing, this step makes a considerable difference in my skin. If I lapse in my use of it, the effects on my skin texture are noticeable!

My favourite sunscreen is UV White Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ by Hada Labo in Japan. This cream leaves no white cast, feels light, and protects you with good SPF and the highest PA (protection grade of UVA) rating possible that I know of.

If you take nothing else from my skincare routine, heed these words: WEAR SUNSCREEN.

My evening skin routine begins with cleansing with Perfect Whip again, followed by Retinol 1% in Squalane by The Ordinary.

My night time moisturizer is the step I change up most often in my skincare routine, as I never really notice much of a difference. As long as I don’t wake up dry, I’m happy. Right now I’m using Revitalizing Supreme + by Estée Lauder.

In the evening, I finish with an oil because it makes me feel as though I’m sealing in all the goodness I’ve just applied to my face and helps me feel more hydrated before bed. My current fave is 100% Cold Pressed Virgin Marula Oil by The Ordinary.

Before I go to sleep I’ll put Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream Lip Protectant on my lips. It makes me smell like an old lady, but my lips stay hydrated and protected all night long. It’s also great on dry skin if you live in a place with cold winters and no humidity like me! (Full disclosure: there’s a scent-free option of the Elizabeth Arden, but I go for the old lady every time).

I know it seems as though I use a lot of products, and in the spirit of honesty, I don’t know the exact science behind most of the things I put on my face. I’m happy with my skin, but that could be down to genetics and luck. I’d say the most important advice you could follow would be to wash your face, wear sunscreen (yes, every day, even when it’s not sunny outside), drink plenty of water, don’t smoke, and exfoliate. Just don’t let me catch you using that apricot scrub.

Brandon, 34, Director

Skin type: Oily

I used to be revolted by my oily skin until my makeup artist roomie explained it was keeping my wrinkles hydrated and reducing the signs of aging. My current skincare regimen takes all that into account and works with my greasy face instead of against it.

My morning routine starts with Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser. I immediately distrust any cleanser that doesn’t foam: I know it’s all marketing but here we are.

The Kiehl’s one also feels very gentle and doesn’t strip away my natural oils. Next I’ll apply The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 which makes my face looks fresh AF followed by The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA. This moisturizer somehow keeps me hydrated all day without making my greasy skin even more greasy.

My evening skincare regimen is the same Kiehl’s cleanser followed by The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution on a cotton pad swept across the face and neck. Apparently the cotton and acid helps to gently exfoliate and improve skin radiance and texture. I’ve also been told that because of the acid it’s best to use this formula in the evening to avoid sun exposure. Next I use the same moisturizer + HA from the morning, and sometimes The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane to reduce signs of aging. I only use this at night as I’ve read that retinoids can make the skin more sensitive to UV radiation.

Speaking of UV radiation: I’m sure others with similarly greasy skin are equally horrified by the thought of applying more oil to their faces, which can make things tough when it comes to finding a sunscreen. My friends and I now swear by Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+/PA++++. It seems to absorb right away with no greasy feeling, though the catch is you’ve got to order it from Japan.

My job as a director means that sometimes I won’t wrap a shoot until 3am, and I’ll still have to be up for 8 the next day. My favourite power move in times of sleep deprivation is a few drops of Visine in my eyes and Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Eye De-Puffer for any bags underneath them.

PS: This honestly seemed a lot more low-maintenance before I had to write it all down.

Colm, 27, Actor

Skin type: Practically perfect in every way

When I was eleven, a classmate asked me if she could count all the pimples on my forehead. That should tell you pretty much all you need to know about my history with my skin. I remember using a lot of Clean and Clear Spot treatment which of course dried out my forehead like nothing else.

After a few awkward years, my skin completely cleared up… and it’s pretty much stayed like that ever since. My only explanation is that it must be magic because I honestly do very little. I don’t use any fancy soaps, the only moisturizer I own is Kiehl’s Ultra Face cream, and I’ve used it maybe ten times in the two years I’ve owned it. 

I have no advice. I have no recommendations.
Sometimes you just get lucky.

So there you have it. For these five guys it seems to come down to Japanese products, The Ordinary, liberal use of sunscreen and a slice of potato every now and then.

Have a favourite skincare product you’d like to share?
Head to our Instagram and pop a message in the comments!

FYI: This article contains many (many!) links to the products our five guys mention. These are provided for your convenience and are NOT paid for, or the result of any commercial affiliation.

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